COLUMBUS, Ohio — A business duo is trying to pull off a first in Ohio: Opening a bank run predominately by women. 

What You Need To Know

  • Only about a dozen banks are headed by women across the country

  • A Columbus business duo shares plans to start the first-ever women-owned bank in Ohio called Fortuna

  • If approved, Fortuna is expected to open in six months

Named after the Greek Goddess of Fortune, Fortuna would be one of just a few dozen women-owned banks across the county.

According to, less than 1% of all banks are headed by women in the U.S. 

"During the course of my life, people around me have always made me believe I could do things that other people didn't think women or girls could do," said businesswoman Lisa Berger.

Berger, who came up with the idea, is planning on running the bank alongside Ilaria Rawlins. 

The business duo crossed paths 20 years ago when Rawlins was Berger's banker for her company at the time. 

While Rawlins' life work has been banking, Berger didn't plan to go this route. Initially, she pursued being a lawyer.

"I realized I was not super happy being a lawyer,” recalled Berger. “At that time, I realized I want to not only start a business but help people along the way. Ultimately, the pieces came together in the form of starting a bank and starting a bank to help women."  

Though Rawlins and Berger share different career paths, the two reflect upon their similar upbringing, both growing up with two sisters, while Berger went to an all-girls school. The two agree that's why gender roles never hold them back. 

In Rawlins' case, it started very young. 

"I remember being a little girl,” said Rawlins, “and my mom said, 'I don't want you being a cheerleader. I want you to be out there playing the sport yourself. That statement has lasted with me forever that I'm able to do whatever I want to do, whether it's a girl or boy activity." 

Now, years later, Rawlins and Berger are collaborating to achieve one goal: starting a bank aimed at championing financial literacy and entrepreneurship for women. 

"Our hope is we can teach women how to be successful in the financial world,” said Berger. “There are so many businesses and companies now being started by women, but women don't know how to scale those businesses. Our hope is to be able to mentor those women." 

They have picked out a location in Grandview Heights, and if approved, the business duo hopes it encourages other women to pursue their calling, regardless of gender norms. 

"At the end of the day, it's all about trying,” said Rawlins. “It's about being intentional with what you want to accomplish. I think in today's society, there's no more, 'women can't do that' or 'women shouldn't do that.'"

And for these ladies, that means empowering women one step at a time. 

If Fortuna gets approved, the bank is expected to be open in six months.